THE BIBLE-TEACHING MINISTRY OF CHARLES R. SWINDOLL
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What Matters Now?
What Matters Now?
One of my first after school jobs was working in a butcher shop.
I learned to trim fat and cut meat, how to wrap and freeze properly, sharpen knives, and, as a corollary, how to stop bleeding quickly.
As good as these things were they were about as relevant to my life as a high school student as knowing the price of rice in China. There was no connection between the world of high school and that of the butcher shop. Only later in life when I became a hunter, had to choose meat at the grocery store, and owned knives of my own, did I see the relevance of that knowledge.
My experience with the butcher shop job is like that of many Christians who struggle to relate to Scripture. Preachers say the Bible is relevant and applicable to life in the 21st century, yet for many there is a huge disconnect.
This disconnect exists because of difficulty we have relating to the world of the Bible. The times were different in every way. People we never knew did things we don't comprehend, in places we've never been, in times we never lived. It really was a different world.
Or was it?
One reason we might not see Scripture's relevance is because we focus on the
between the world of the Bible and our world and conclude Scripture is irrelevant. Instead we need to look at the points of
. It is these that provide the relevance for us. Here are three of them.
The first point of continuity showing Scripture's relevance today is
God does not change
. He says, “For I, the Lord, do not change” (Malachi 3:6). His character and attributes are eternally the same. The God Bible characters related to is the same God we relate to. There is continuity in that.
What about all that horror and bloodshed we see in the OT? Is God still like that? The short answer is yes. But we have to understand that Christ's coming ushered in an age of grace. We are in a time when God is patiently withholding judgment and giving people a chance to repent (2 Peter 3:9). So although He hasn't changed, His
way of relating
The second point of continuity showing Scripture's relevance today is that
God's Word has not changed
. Our eternal God breathed His Word so it too stands eternal. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God stands forever” (Isaiah 40:8). It is always able to speak to anyone's situation because it “…is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12).
But because Scripture was written when and to whom it was means we have to bridge the gap to our world today. We do that by asking, “What is the theological truth of this passage? What does it teach about God, man, and the world?” It is the theology that we apply to our lives today.
The final point of continuity showing Scripture's relevance today is that another main character of the Bible, mankind, is the same now as then.
Human nature has not changed
. We live in a different era, with different languages, cultures, and technology, but human nature is not different. As long as mankind exists, human nature will always be the same.
The Bible characterizes basic human nature as proud, self-centred, and independent of God, which it calls sin. It is this separation from God that leads to all kinds of ungodly behaviour. We like to think we are morally superior to our ancestors, but we're not. We sin like they did because we are sinners. Just as putting a pig in a tutu doesn't make it a ballerina, so changing language, culture, and technology doesn't change human nature. We are born separated from God and until, and unless, God intervenes in our life, we stay that way. Forever.
This is why we can relate to Scripture: Bible characters are just like us! We see ourselves in their actions and attitudes. Also, the same Word that commanded, encouraged, rebuked, or corrected is the same Word speaking to us today. And finally, the same God who dealt with them in judgment, or grace, is the same God we deal with today.
My butcher shop job taught me some of the most practical skills I ever learned. What I thought was totally irrelevant turned out to be totally applicable. And Scripture is the same. We just need to learn how to cut away the fat to get at the meat of what really matters now.
By Steve Johnson
Steve is the Executive Director at Insight for Living Canada, giving oversight and direction to the ministry. He has degrees in religious education and theology and spent over 20 years pastoring in Western Canada.